This year, the Dhaka Art Summit collaborated with around 30 artist collectives from home and abroad. One of them was Ruangrupa, a group of artists and creators from Jakarta, showcasing numerous interesting concepts. The collective has been appointed as the curators and artistic directors of the exhibition, Documenta 15, in Germany in 2022. Farid Rakun (Ruangrupa), MG Pringgotono (Serrum) and JJ Adibrata (Serrum) took out some time from their busy schedule to discuss their collective art practices with The Daily Star.
Two years after the fall of the repressive Soeharto regime (1998), the collective made maximum use of their newly found freedom. "The fall of the regime was one of the causes, but it was also MTV that inspired us to form the collective," explains Rakun. "Some of us were really interested to learn how to make videos. We actually got together quite coincidentally."
With an objective to make art to serve their community, Ruangrupa, together with Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara, initiated GUDSKUL: Contemporary Art Collective and Ecosystem Studies in 2018. It is a public learning space that promotes the importance of critical and experimental dialogues through sharing and experience-based learning.
MG Pringgotono, the director of GUDSKUL, described the venture as a responsible one. "We believe in collective ideas. While some institutions want students to work individually, we believe that working together can bring better results. That is why we call it an ecosystem," says the director.
According to JJ Adibrata, an artistic board member of Serrum, the ecosystem offers 11 courses for the students. "We do not follow the top-down method. Rather, we initiate dialogues on socio-political and urban issues with an educational and artistic approach," explains Adibrata. Such initiatives often face challenges when it comes to sustainability. "If the concepts are owned by the community, then it will have better chances to grow," suggests Pringgotono.
The trio explained that there is no formula to form a collective. "There are defined opportunities for artist collectives in recent times, but I do not think artists should fall for those. It is not the definition but the context that matters," adds Adibrata.
Appointed unanimously by the board, Rungagrupa is set to curate the 15th edition of the renowned international exhibition of contemporary art, Documenta, which began in 1955. This marks the first time that an artist collective has been selected to curate Documenta, and the first time that its curatorial leadership has come from Asia. Ruangrupa is expected to highlight inclusion and diversity in their approach. Each individual in the collective comes from different backgrounds and disciplines. "Learning should not be a parasitic concept but a mutual one, where everyone can learn from each other. We see Documenta as an opportunity to connect, learn and share with others," explains Rakun.
During the Dhaka Art Summit this year, Jog Art Space, Ruangrupa and Gudskul made a collaborative project from the collective body, Gerobak Cinema or Cinema Cart. The project was reimagined with a Bangladeshi rickshaw and a two-hour video was projected on a screen at Ramna Bridge for public viewing.